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Can I Have Another Cookie?
posted 2/3/97
What Is a Cookie?
Read this for the answer.

A few of weeks ago, a friend and I were having a cross-country e-mail conversation. At one point, he mentioned a new Bell-Atlantic program that allows users a low cost WebTV connection to the Net complete with encrypted shopping and a catch: To use the shopping, you agree to allow Bell-Atlantic to provide your transaction information and profile to advertisers. Advertisers, in turn, can use that information to target ads specifically to consumers on a one to one basis:

Good afternoon MR. MCFARLANE. Before you begin surfing for a new NORTHERN MICHIGAN SITE OF THE WEEK, might we show you a new DIGITAL MOVIE CAMERA? We have taken the liberty of graphically rendering what this might be used for by LEELANAU COMMUNICATIONS, INC. in a brief videotour of LEELANAU COUNTY.

I started to launch into a tirade about the insidious evils of this program and others like it...then I thought for a moment.

Why not allow advertisers to know more about me? Every day I wade through piles of on and offline advertising for products I have absolutely zero interest in, at the same time spending more valuable time searching for information on those products I do want to buy.

My head began to spin and I had to go for a walk. For three weeks I have been pondering, and I can't shake my conclusion, much as it shakes me:

It is to our benefit to have as detailed a buying profile as possible in the hands of every potential advertiser.

Before you start checking me for puppeteer's strings leading back to Madison Avenue, consider my case:

The TV Model
or: Burgers and Cars

On the occasions when I do watch TV, I am struck by the sheer uselessness of the information contained in the advertising to my life. As a near vegetarian who only eats a burger at the Blue Bird Restaurant every three months or so, I have absolutely no intention of ever eating another Big Mac, Whopper or Dave Thomas's latest sandwich experiment. Flame broiled or fried, it matters not at all. The second largest ad block comes from the Motor City. Saturn is a planet in my book, and Achieva sounds like exactly what it is: a made up word that will convince a statistically predetermined percentage of people that here is a new and different vehicle. I plan to drive our 84 Bronco into the ground and then buy a pre-1970 Buick or a hydrogen fuel cell car and as such care nothing for the incremental change in the auto world that passes for new. When you add in Spring Fresh bleach, this accounts roughly half my TV-ad time. I have wasted it by watching and the advertisers have wasted their money by delivering the message.

The reason that this happens is that the only way an advertiser can send a national message is to be willing to "spam" every television in America with the same message. Those who cannot, whose national market is too small to justify such an expenditure (the makers of about 98% of the products I do buy) are forced to reach me in other ways.

The Internet Model
or: Target in Site

With the advent of the commercialized Internet, there is another option available to advertisers. Have you ever noticed how banner ads on the major search engines often relate to your search terms? This is because they have spent a lot of time entering key words to allow advertisers more ability to target their ads. HotBot goes a step further, recognizing my browser signature as a Mac, it shows me an ad for the new Internet Explorer for the Macintosh upon arrival.

Even without such sophisticated technical hi-jinks, the Net is tailor-made for targetted ads. Large sites generally have a focus, which serves to filter potential advertisers. Big deal, TV shows have a viewer profile which accomplishes the same thing. The Web takes it a step further: most large sites have further "interest areas" and their are a legion of smaller sites with very specific themes. What's more, many enable you to provide information to further tailor the manner in which information is presented. As a consequence, though the Internet is a massive stew which changes daily, web surfers (at least me) find that the ads are much more relevant to their needs than the ones channel surfers encounter. NMJs featured advertiser

or: Let Me Tell You What I Want

To shorten a potentially endless piece, here is the plan that I am recommending and will follow:

I will accept cookies, fill out profiles in detail and promptly notify advertisers when they have got it wrong, generating a very detailed picture of my buying habits.

As benefits, I expect:
More reliable information at a faster pace (I get irritated wading through pages and pages of fluff and even more irritated when I buy the wrong product), thereby saving time and money.

That it will be easier for the small guys (the ones I usually buy from) to reach me since I'll be wearing a big digital sign that says:

Large Burger and Car corporations will save money which can be plowed into developing good tasting vegetarian alternatives and hydrogen fuel cell cars which I will buy.

Increased standard of living across the nation as billions of ad dollars are saved annually by following this plan.
OK, that's it. Can I have another cookie?
The Netsurfer Archive

v 1.1: ISP's, Montage and Twin T's
v 1.2: Christmas Wishes
v 2.02: 21st Century Schools
For the latest on these and other stories, keep an eye on the Northern Michigan News. If you have a piece on Northern Michigan net-related info, we welcome your submissions and will give you credit if we run it.

Andrew McFarlane is the editor of the Northern Michigan Journal and the webmaster for Leelanau.Com as well as a number of other northern Michigan web sites.
To save on space, a certain knowledge base is assumed of you, dear reader. These links provide more information. If you're confused, start clicking!

Bell Atlantic

What Is WebTV?

NM Site of the Week




Madison Avenue

My Burger War Page
Saturn You Can Buy

Saturn You Can't

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars

A Complete Waste of Time


Banners: VERY informative


Firefly: Intelligent agent


These links found with relative ease by Infoseek which has added a great and useful feature that alows you to search only the results of your search.

Leelanau Webdesign
Email to Andrew
Northern Michigan News

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